Plant cool-season flowers. About six to eight weeks before your region's last average frost date, you can put in pansies, violas, lobelia, snapdragons and other cool-season flowers. They thrive in cool weather and tolerate frosts well. They're especially good in pots.
Plant cool-season annual edibles and perennial herbs outdoors. These include seedlings you've started indoors or purchased at a garden center: parsley, cilantro, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and Brussels sprouts.
Start seeds indoors as desired. Most vegetable and annual flower seeds should be started six to eight weeks before your region's last average frost date -- and for most of the Midwest, that means starting seeds now. Check package directions for suggested timing, however.
Begin planting trees, shrubs and roses. You can plant both bare-root and container-grown types as long as the soil is well-thawed and you can work it easily to the needed depth.
In the southern Midwest, plant radishes and spinaches as soon as the soil is thawed and you can work it easily. You also can plant potatoes -- St. Patrick's Day is the traditional planting day in this part of the country.
Most trees and some shrubs can be pruned now. Delay pruning spring-blooming shrubs so you don't trim off developing flowers. Most other shrubs will benefit from a little trimming now.
Prune roses, eliminating dead shoots. Once roses send out tiny red buds that will turn into stems, they are ready for pruning. When the stems are about 1/2 inch long, the rose is pretty well out of dormancy. You should be able to tell what wood is alive and what has been killed by winter cold and should be removed.
Spray fruit trees with dormant oil. Do this when the temperature is above 40 degrees. Dormant oil, available at garden centers, prevents scale insects, spider mites and other pests later in the season. You can also spray dormant oil on roses and other trees and shrubs that have been troubled by pests in the past.
Rake old leaves. You'll feel like you're giving your yard a fresh spring start when you remove the remnants of winter -- late-falling leaves, sticks and trash that may have blown in during the winter months.
Cut back perennials. If you didn't do this in the fall, cut them back now.
Pull away winter mulch. As soon as you see signs of new growth, pull away and lean up any straw or leaves you applied in the fall to protect perennials.